A few weeks ago on a Saturday night, I found myself throwing a tantrum outside Teasers, otherwise known as the local Durham strip club. This was not the original plan for the night—the chain of events that led to this is too long-winded to explain, but there were two main things. I was on a date, and I really, really did not want to go inside Teasers.

To be fair, the guy I was with wasn’t thrilled with the idea either (I think), but his drunk friends very much were and we could hear them giggling inside.

It was getting chilly. “Honestly,” I said. “I really don’t want to go to a strip club right now. Can we just please do something else?” I wanted him to say that it was not a problem. I wanted him to say that he understood and we could do something else, anything else. Instead, he sighed and a look of weariness came over his face.

“Come on,” he said. “You’re a trooper. I know it. It won’t be that bad. Let’s go.” He turned, and pushed past the embellished door.

I stood there, hearing in my mind the real, underlying meaning of his words. I thought you were chill, they said. I thought you wouldn’t be high maintenance. Don’t disappoint me.

And because I did not want to let him down, because I was afraid I would ruin the date, I followed him inside.

In the end, it was all very anti-climatic. It was deserted, dingy and I had a lovely conversation about hairstyles with one of the girls, Roxy. But the incident bothered me for days afterward. The fact that I went to a strip club was not what bothered me. It was probably more sensible anyway than storming off into Durham in the middle of the night. But I felt I had lost some degree of self-respect. I hadn’t made that decision for my own sake, but because I feared being left alone. And I was disturbed at how powerful that fear had felt.

Why are we so afraid of being alone? The fear of loneliness seems to often drive us to do things that we would not otherwise do. When we are in new places, we quickly befriend people that we may not be most compatible with, just to have companionship—see Orientation Week, freshman year. We may choose partners who we do not end up liking very much after all, lest we be forever alone. Worst of all, we might compromise the intrinsic personal beliefs that make us unique, our values, simply to avoid being with ourselves. Why?

Perhaps it is because if we have to confront our authentic selves, with no one else to buffer us, we might actually have to discover who we really are. This is both exciting and horrifying. What if we do not like who we are? What if we are not, in fact, who we think we are? The human consciousness has a way of shrouding itself in denial, otherwise we would go mad from self-awareness. Without it, we might discover that we have been making the wrong decisions after all, and need to uproot our comfortable existences.

I think our fear of loneliness comes from the sense that we are not enough on our own. That we need other people to complete us—whether it’s loyal friends or a lover who can introduce us to the full intensity of emotional experience. That those left without companions as we journey through our lives are worth less than those who do find stable people in their lives. And this to me is utter bulls**t.

I want to establish a very important point that seems often ignored. Being alone is not a bad thing. Being alone does not mean you are a lesser human being. Being alone does not mean you are not capable of being loved. The idea that other people are needed to complete our identities is a Hollywood trope that we have grown up with for so long, it is difficult to question. Relationships are fantastic and people may shape us in ways, wonderful ways we cannot imagine, but we existed before them and will exist after they leave.

You know what being alone is? It is pure power. It is you calling the shots on your own life and getting the chance to truly discover what you actually believe and feel and dream and love, separate from any other person. It is the understanding that you are more than enough by yourself, and no one else is needed to validate that. It is freedom from having that knowledge, one that liberates us to connect authentically with only the people we truly want to.

We need to learn how to be alone. We should sit ourselves comfortably down and simply luxuriate in the simple enjoyment of our own thoughts. I think back to that night at the strip club and I wish I had not let fear blind me from recognizing a bad date. I wish I had called a cab, waited 10 minutes and high-tailed it back to campus.

After all, being alone is not a bad thing, but being with someone just to avoid being alone is.

Bella Kwai is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Friday.